Forklifts and the Cyclone Effect

How dust can damage your forklift fleet and your workforces health.

Dust can cause a multitude of problems; from being a nightmare to keep on top of in an old house to damaging stock in a warehouse. It can be caused by many things, and can be a bi-product of an industry (such as paper warehousing and milling) or it can be a necessity to help keep an area clean and hygienic (such as within a butchers or abattoir).
But the dust that settles on your fireplace, or on the racking in a warehouse or even on your clothes isn’t the main problem… because it’s not yet in your lungs. Breathing in dust can cause major health problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and even scarring.
To protect their employee’s, most countries specify a maximum dust concentration that is allowed in the air. In the UK, it’s total quantity is about the size of a five pence piece in a room 10 feet squared. In some industries for example, where there’s wood dust or building materials the risk is especially serious. Worryingly, most of the particles are much smaller than you can see with the naked eye, so it’s difficult to tell exactly how much dust is in the air at any one time.

So, what has this got to do with forklift trucks?

FORKLIFT ENGINES: THE CYCLONE EFFECT

Generally speaking, forklift engines don’t create dust. An LPG engine with a three-way catalytic converter doesn’t even make soot. But they can naturally pick up dust and dirt from the surroundings causing poor fuel economy, reduced reliability and high engine wear.
The real problem is in the way they spread dust.
The fast-moving parts of a forklift engine can create a cyclone effect a lot like the one used in modern vacuum cleaners which sucks dust and dirt from the floor. Except, unlike a cleaner, the particles aren’t stored: they’re scattered further into the air.
Every time a truck is used, it can directly increase the airborne dust concentration; damaging stock and, potentially, workers’ health.
You wouldn’t think something as simple as dust could stop a forklift in its tracks, but it does. Dirty engines can become choked up, causing serious issues such as:

 

ENGINE WEAR
A clogged engine wears out faster, as millions of tiny particles grind away at the bearings, pistons, cylinders and valves that means more breakdowns, more downtime and more parts to buy. In fact, some estimates say a clean engine lasts twice as long.

OIL CONTAMINATION
Dust mixes with oil and stops it doing its job. Worse, contaminated oil can actually accelerate damage to the engine it’s supposed to protect.

FUEL BURNING PROBLEMS
More dust means less air, which affects the engine’s ratio of air to fuel. That makes the engine less fuel efficient, and can also cause harmful emissions.

 

PREVENTION IS SIMPLE

Experts, including the UK’s Health & Safety Executive, recommend good housekeeping as the best way to keep dust down but most importantly they advise avoiding methods that put settled dust back into the air.

FIT A BELLY PLATE

For a forklift truck, that means a belly plate with sealed rear wheel arches. Putting a physical barrier under the truck stops dust and dirt being sucked into the engine and sprayed around especially if the wheel arches are included.

This protection can be fitted to most trucks, and some like the Mitsubishi GRENDIA even have it as standard. Others may need them to be added as cost options or custom modifications.

Either way, they’re an essential part of keeping your truck reliable, efficient and hardworking.

It’s a very simple solution to a small but important problem. If you follow these tips and tricks and make sure the housekeeping is done by everyone, your forklift (and you!) should have a nice long life.

Speak to the team at Welfaux about dust management and protection solutions for your forklift fleet.  Our experts are on hand with tips and advice that will make a real difference to your workforce and their environment.